I love that old gospel song “I’ll Fly Away.” The tune, the beat, the high lonesome sound sends ripples up and down my spine. Essentially, this song expresses a hope that when we die, we’ll fly off “to God’s celestial shore,” leaving behind all of our earthly cares and woes.
This is a view seemingly expressed by many Christians – God doesn’t really care that much about earth. Instead, he wants us to believe in him here on earth so we can live with him forever in heaven.
I just can’t buy into that. The narratives of the scriptures describe God in an incredibly earthy sort of way. This flies in the face of all our notions about the unattainable and inaccessible God who dwells in heaven. Rather, God did indeed dwell right here on earth in flesh and blood. Even earlier, in the Old Testament, God is dedicated to giving his people the land of west of the Jordan River. If God only cared about heaven, then why was he so concerned that the Israelites have a place to call their own? (The Daily Office reading for today is from Deuteronomy 4: “So acknowledge today and take to heart that Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other” v. 39.)
What does this mean for us? We need to get our heads out of the clouds – literally and figuratively – and reclaim our theology that speaks of God in meaty, earthy ways. This shouldn’t be too hard for a society of devoted materialists.
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.